AbhijnanaSakuntalam is a play that is completely based on the theme of love. Regarded as Kalidasa’s greatest play, AbhijnanaSakuntalam is a unique tale of love between King Duhsanta and Shakuntala. The central idea of the entire play is the love between the two protagonists and the consequences that it carry with it.
Shakuntala is a beautiful maiden who lives as an ascetic in Kanva’s hermitage. Grown up amidst the nature, she has developed a feeling of love for the plants and animals surrounding her. Love is not always between two humans, but also can be felt with other things. Kalidasa has demonstrated this exact point very accurately. Again a fatherly love is felt between Kanva and Shakuntala. Even though Kanva isn’t the biological father of the maiden, he always loves her as his own daughter. It is a beautiful relationship between the two that is strengthened with love.
Shakuntala’s love for animals is clearly evident when she helps an injured deer. When Duhsanta first sees her, he becomes completely smitten by her beauty and nature and falls in love with her. Similarly, Shakuntala also develops feelings of love towards Duhsanta and they both marry in the hermitage. This is a very important event in the play that is based completely on the theme of love and romance. Even though Shakuntala insisted Duhsanta to wait until the sage returns, their immense love didn’t let them wait anymore. Hence they married in the Gandharva mode. The extreme amount of love that they had grown for each other in a short amount of time is very noteworthy.
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When Duhsanta returns back to his palace, he gives her his gold ring as a token of their love. This period is the hardest test of love for Shakuntala, and she spends her time devoting her husband. She loses interest in other activities and remains distracted in love. She devotes her time waiting for her husband to come back and take her to the palace. However something unfortunate occurs which turns her life upside down. The angry sage Durvasa incurs a curse on Shakuntala which completely wipes away the memory of Duhsanta about his marriage with Shakuntala.
Shakuntala discovers that she is pregnant with Duhsanta’s child and visits his palace instead of waiting anymore. However in the palace, Duhsanta refuses to recognize her and insults her character. Heartbroken Shakuntala tries to remind the king of all the good times they had with a little hope in their love. But unfortunately, all her efforts go in vain as Duhsanta, under the influence of the curse fails to remember her. When the high priest offers Shakuntala to stay in the palace until the child is born in order to test her claims, she refuses his offer and prays the Gods to take her back. This shows us that even though Shakuntala is smitten in love, she still manages to save her self respect. She doesn’t let anyone pity her.
It is said that true love always finds its way. Years later, coincidently the king retrieves his memory back. He breaks down in guilt and shame and yearns for his beloved wife Shakuntala. When he finally meets his son Bharat and Shakuntala in sage Marica’s Hermitage, he breaks down in front of her and begs her forgiveness. This is another display of love, that makes a king break down in front of another person. We can imagine how strong the love of Duhsanta is towards Shakuntala. Shakuntala too forgives her husband and agrees to return back with him. Shakuntala’s life was surrounded by the love and devotion for her husband. Even though she suffered humiliation in his hands, she still managed to forgive him, because her love was pure and deep.
The story is a beautiful representation of love and romance. Shakuntala’s faith in love forced every energy to reunite the two lovers. The story begins with love and ends with living happily with love, as one of the characteristics of Sanskrit Literature.